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Remote Working: Life in a Satellite State

April 26, 2018

In the past, long distance was reserved for online relationships, short-lived holiday friendships, and poorly spelled letters to the French penpal you had when you were 11.

But for many in 2018, remote working is the new normal, with a whole workforce looking for roles which allow them to telecommute every day. This is particularly prevalent amongst digital specialists, with work-from-home days, teleconferences and satellite offices becoming common features of agency life.

Made Media works with clients across four continents, and meeting their needs requires having satellite offices around the world. With Made staff in London, Birmingham, Poland and Brooklyn, we like to think we know a thing or two about the advantages of remote working, as well as the pitfalls, and how to avoid them.

Here are our top tips for making remote working work for you:

1. Talk the talk

Made has always used cloud-based services to ensure that with a laptop, employees can work anywhere; HR, finances and file sharing can all be done remotely. However, having the technical set-up sorted doesn’t mean that remote working will automatically work well; you need to think about your people too.

One of the great things about remote working is that we can recruit the best talent in any territory in which we operate. However no man is an island, and it’s important that employees don’t feel isolated, or out of of the loop, from the rest of their team. We have a meticulously curated planner which we use to coordinate resources across different departments and offices, ensuring that everyone is aware of each other’s workloads and upcoming projects, regardless of where they are based.

Every Made staff member is available on instant message all day, so communicating across teams and offices is easy. Chat rooms act as an online water cooler, allowing developers, account handlers and senior management to discuss key projects, helping to make those of us in remote offices feel connected to the entire business.

2. Let’s Do the Time (Zone) Warp Again

Having offices in three different time zones allows us to cover all of our clients worldwide, no matter the local time. While this “follow the sun” strategy is great for our clients, it necessitates some crafty logistical planning on our part. A key skill to learn here is how to best utilise overlapping office hours. We try and be as efficient as we can, scheduling project briefings and conference calls so that all offices involved can share information as early as possible to make the most of developer hours. A carefully planned weekly timetable means that our New York office can speak with developers at the start of their day, relay updates to clients in the afternoon, and come into work the next morning to see the results of a full day’s work. This kind of careful planning means that we can capitalise on having a Made office open for 14.5 hours of every day.

Pro tip: Google Calendar is definitely your friend, and will help you to have other office times in the back of your mind when planning any meetings. Remote workers will be less than pleased if you schedule a call for 6am their time!

3.  The Reunion Episode

As effective as we find remote working, we believe it’s important to have everyone come together as often as distance and budget allows. Our staff in the US frequently come over to the UK, and vice versa, providing the opportunity to brainstorm ideas, discuss projects, and get some face time with the developers and account handlers they work with every day. These visits strengthen bonds between offices, and allow staff to experience each other’s cultures.

It’s important to have everyone come together as often as distance and budget allows.

Movement isn’t limited to transatlantic travel. Staff from the Birmingham office can often be found in the London co-working space, visiting clients and taking photos of the Shard from the windows, while bewildered Cockneys are dragged up to the Midlands for the occasional Balti. We even have senior staff who are located between offices, dividing their time between London and Birmingham. All this travel means that different teams get to discuss projects face to face, helping to understand each other’s issues and skill sets, improving our work when we return to our own desks, wherever they may be.

Every now and then Made staff are even allowed to escape the confines of the offices altogether, and we make a real effort to send different combinations of staff to conferences around the world. By varying the attendees we send, our clients get to meet representatives from all offices and teams, giving them a real insight into who we are. Last year’s TLCC in San Diego is a case in point, with attendance from all four of our offices!

4. Work from home is where the heart is

At Made, a key part of our culture is “Work From Home Wednesdays”. Not only does working from home save on the commute, we’ve found that it also acts as a leveller across our offices.

For one day a week, every single Made employee is a remote worker. This means that everyone understands how it feels to not be able to pop over to a colleague’s desk to discuss an issue, or catch up on a project. This reinforces the importance of clear communication, and we find that this makes us all more effective at sharing information during the rest of the week.

5.  Making it Facebook official

We know that it shouldn’t matter what other people think, but it’s still important for remote workers to feel like they are represented in all areas of agency life. We make a real effort to feature news and updates from all our offices on our social media channels, and in all digital output.

This not only gives our friends and clients an inside look into what we are up to all around the world, it also makes staff in every office feel like their work and input are being recognised. It’s good for us, and for our clients.

Next Steps

As you may have guessed from our tips, we believe that the key to successful remote working is effective communication. This may be guaranteeing that remote workers can easily contact teams in other offices, that they can get face time as often as they need it, or making sure that their work is acknowledged online. No matter how you are doing remote working, if you are keeping lines of communication open, chances are you are doing something right.

So go forth into the world, and open remote offices. If our tips haven’t convinced you, remember that they make for a great excuse to visit a new city.